For the vast majority of us, the word “citation” inspires feelings ranging from resigned annoyance to abject terror. Anyone who did a research paper in high school probably has less than fond memories of grappling with MLA vs. APA vs. Chicago style and the seemingly endless task of bibliography annotation.

But not to worry. We aren’t going to be talking about any of that.

In the land of SEO, citations are mentions of your business or website on other webpages, typically without a link back to your site.

Think of them like name dropping at a party or networking event.

Citations are a crucial part of local SEO because the Google gods use them as ranking signal.

“High-quality, authoritative citations are viewed by experts as the #1 ranking factor in competitive local search markets.” –Moz.com

How exactly do citations help your business rank in local SEO? By providing search engines with cues indicating your business’s authenticity, quality, and relevancy to the given search terms. For example:

  • Citations validate your business’s legitimacy. A city business index listing or Better Business Bureau accreditation are unlikely to be faked.
  • Citations on high-quality, authoritative sources legitimizes the quality and authority of your business.
  • Citations are especially important for local services or small businesses such as plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, etc., who might not have individual websites and the market isn’t as competitive. Search engines try to find out as much information about a business as possible, and will take what they can get.

So the $20,000 question is: how do you get these citations?

Well, they aren’t something you will just sit back and passively hope for.

Every local business should focus on building a strong core of citations that not only broadens the visibility of the business, but also strengthen search engines’ “trust” in the validity of the business’s existence.

Most local businesses will need to actively engage in a citation-building campaign. According to Moz, there are 4 key areas you want to target:

  • Data aggregators (Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Acxiom) who syndicate their data to Google and Bing.
  • Local search providers like Yelp, Foursquare, Hotfrog, etc.
  • City/Neighborhood blogs.
  • Local Directories such as Best of the Web’s Regional Directory and Yahoo’s Regional Directory.
  • Industry-specific blogs and directories.

We should mention that you don’t want to just go into this with guns a-blazing. Trust the experts at Search Engine Land:

“A good citation strategy is all about balance. Balancing quality with quantity, and relevancy with authority.”

So do your research and take the time to put yourself in the shoes of a search engine before you start your citation operation.

Or just let our experts here at the Houston Web Design Agency handle it. Think of us as virtual publicists. We’ll get your name out there and seen by the people (and crawlers) who matter most.

The Houston Web Design Agency handles all things digital marketing–including link building–and we would love to help you get started. Just fill out our contact form or call us at 281-764-9070, anytime!